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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

[Congressional Record: January 22, 2003 (Senate)]
[Page S1307-S1324]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr22ja03-10]                         



 
                           EXECUTIVE SESSION

                                 ______
                                 

   NOMINATION OF THOMAS J. RIDGE OF PENNSYLVANIA TO BE SECRETARY OF 
                           HOMELAND SECURITY
						   
						   		

Mr. DORGAN. Mr. President, first let me say I am pleased to announce that I will vote for Governor Ridge, to confirm Governor Ridge for the position of Secretary of Homeland Security. I have known Governor Ridge for a long while. I served with him in the House of Representatives. I think he is a public servant with great skill and great dedication. I am very pleased to see him continue to offer himself for public service. I am very pleased to cast a vote in favor of his nomination. It is a good one. I commend President Bush for sending it to us. And I think he will be confirmed overwhelmingly by the Senate, if not unanimously. Let me, however, say there are several things I am concerned about with respect to homeland security. And it mirrors some of the suggestions offered by my colleague just moments ago. I want to say--as I indicate I am proud to vote for Governor Ridge-- there are three areas I hope very much we will make some significant improvements in and for. Let me describe them. First and foremost for me is information sharing. The task force headed by former Senators Warren Rudman and Gary Hart, on October 25, issued a report to this country. The report was titled ``America Still Unprepared--America Still in Danger.'' It was a bipartisan task force sponsored by the Council of Foreign Relations, which included former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Warren Christopher; retired ADM William Crowe, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and many others. They found that 1 year after the September 11 attacks, America remains dangerously unprepared for another terrorist attack. At the top of their concerns--the top of their list--was this: 650,000 local and state police officials continue to operate in a virtual intelligence vacuum, without access to a terrorist watch list provided by the U.S. Department of State that goes to immigration and consular officials. Let me say that again. The watch list--the list that the Department of State has, that has on it names of terrorists and suspected terrorists--that list is not available to State and local law enforcement officials across this country. And the Rudman-Hart report says you have 650,000 additional eyes and ears out there in law enforcement that ought to be able to access that report. To give you an example, 36 hours before September 11 and those devastating attacks, one of the hijackers, Ziad Jarrah, a 26-year-old Lebanese national, who was flying the airplane that crashed in Pennsylvania, was pulled over on Interstate 95 in the State of Maryland by a Maryland State Police trooper for driving 90 miles an hour. He was one of the key organizers of the al-Qaida terrorist cell formed in Germany 3 years ago. He shared a Hamburg apartment with Mohammed Atta. And he was at the controls of flight 93. When this hijacker was pulled over by a Maryland trooper, he was driving a rented car under his own name. This hijacker, it turns out, was not on the watch list. But if he had been--and there is no reason to think he would not have been, given today's circumstances--that Maryland trooper [[Page S1311]] would have had no idea and no access to the information that he had just pulled over someone who was a known terrorist, a suspected terrorist. If this afternoon, in Fargo, ND, a city police officer or a county sheriff or a highway patrolman pulls over an automobile, and it is filled with four people who snuck across the United States-Canadian border in some remote area of our country, and those four people are on the terrorist watch list, a list compiled by the State Department, that city police officer or county sheriff will have no access to that information. They can call in and get the NCIC and find out who has been convicted of a felony and who has outstanding warrants, but they are not able to get to the names on the State Department's watch list of who the terrorists are, the known terrorists and suspected terrorists. That is unforgivable, in my judgment. Let me read a detailed excerpt from the Hart-Rudman report: With just fifty-six field offices around the nation, the burden of identifying and intercepting terrorists in our midst is a task well beyond the scope of the FBI. This burden could and should be shared with 650,000 local, county, and state law enforcement officers, but they clearly cannot lend a hand in [the] counterterrorism information void [that now exists because] when it comes to combating terrorism, the police officers on the beat are effectively operating deaf, dumb, and blind. Why? Because we have a list with the names of terrorists on it, and the names of suspected terrorists on it, and the police officers and the county sheriffs and the highway patrolmen have no access to that list and are not allowed to have access to that list. That is wrong. Let me continue quoting from the Hart-Rudman report: Terrorist watch lists provided by the U.S. Department of State to [the U.S.] immigration [folks] and consular officials are still out of bounds for state and local police. In the interim period as information sharing issues get worked out, known terrorists will be free to move about to plan and execute their attacks. Even when they are stopped by local police officers, and even when their names are run against the NCIC, those local law enforcement officials have no ability, no capability, to run those names against the watch list that contains the names of terrorists and suspected terrorists. This needs to get fixed. I hope Governor Ridge makes this a first priority. This was the top recommendation of this blue ribbon commission that says America is unprepared. This was their top recommendation. And months after it was issued, to the best I can understand, very little is happening in the administration to resolve this. I believe very strongly it needs to be resolved, and soon. Mr. President, how much time do I have remaining?

[ ... ]

Finally, let me talk about northern border security, border security generally but northern border security specifically. With respect to our borders, it is true that a country cannot defend itself if it does not control its borders. It is the case, for example, that we have had 10 times as many Border Patrol agents on the southern border between the United States and Mexico as we have had on the northern border. We have done that for many years because of immigration and drug problems. The fact is, the danger today is more than just that. The danger today is the potential of terrorists sneaking into this country and committing an act of terrorism. We have 4 or 5,000 miles of border between the United States and Canada, a long border between two countries that get along well. Up in my part of the country where we have border stations in the northern part of North Dakota, those stations close in many cases at 10 at night. Up until a year or so ago, the only thing that existed, once those stations closed, was an orange cone in the middle of the road. The impolite people who snuck into this country could shred that cone at 60 miles an hour. The polite ones at least stopped to remove the cone and put it back in place. We have changed some of that but not enough. This is a long, porous border. If this country is going to provide the security it needs for the American people, then it has to have control of its borders. That means we have to fund the Customs Service, the Immigration Service, and the Border Patrol and have the coordination of those agencies that work together to do the job they know needs doing.

[ ... ]

[ End ]



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